The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby – Book Review

The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby
Published by Avon A, an imprint of Harper Collins

Twelve years ago, three siblings were out rowing on the lake late at night, trying to escape the raging fight their parents were having. When Melanie, the oldest, thinks she sees something on the far bank and stands to see it, the boat rocks and Luke, the youngest drowns in the rough water. Grant’s father was devastated, having saved Luke’s life during multiple asthma attacks, to lose his patient. Now Grant is in his back at Canandaigua Lake, recovering from his failed marriage. Without really meaning to, he becomes involved in the lives of Melanie’s family, who are desperate to find her as she has been mysteriously missing for the past few days.

It is difficult to give you much sense of the plot, really. Partly because this is a very character-driven novel, although there is a zenith to the action, and partly because I felt that the plotting of “The Language of Trees” was not as tight as it needed to be. There were too many characters given narration privileges and too many plot lines to follow for a novel clocking in under 350 pages. Ruby’s prose is lovely, but when some of the more minor characters reappeared now and then, I found myself thinking “who is that again?”

I also had a mini-rant in the middle of reading “The Language of Trees” about the way that authors name characters. One of the characters who initially seemed to be secondary but gained in importance throughout the story was named Echo. There was no back story given to the name – and not very much given to her in general – and it did not seem to me to highlight anything unique about her character. Since I couldn’t see a specific purpose for naming the character Echo and have never met, or indeed even read about before, a woman named Echo, it distracted me and pulled me out of the story every time.

It may sound from the couple of specific problems I had with “The Language of Trees” that I did not enjoy it, which is not true in the least. I think that Ruby is a very talented writer. I enjoyed her prose and the story she was telling, but I do think that for her next book the plot needs to be tightened up a bit and┬ácharacter names need to be given careful consideration. It would make me even happier if her next novel could be in past tense as well. Regardless, I think that Ruby shows great promise as a novelist and I will be eagerly awaiting her next book.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received from Ruby’s publicist.
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9 comments to The Language of Trees by Ilie Ruby – Book Review

  • I actually do know someone named Echo – she’s in her mid-20’s and apparently she was named after a character in a soap opera, so that wouldn’t bother me. Jill of Fizzy Thoughts sent me this one and I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • You’ve intrigued me enough to make me think I will want to read this one. I’ll make allowances for the weaknesses that you point out here and appreciate your straightforward review.

  • I have this sitting on my shelf, but I don’t think I’ll get to it before it has to be back to the library (this weekend). I do want to read it and hope to soon.

  • I just read this book. Review coming soon, but I did not enjoy it.

  • I’m intrigued by the cover and the title and well.. even your problems with the book.

  • I read so many books like this that seem like they could have been great books with some tweaking. Beautiful writing can’t save everything.

  • Sorry you had trouble with the name Echo. Glad you enjoyed the book though. It’s a neighbor’s daughter. Next book is in the past tense, just for you!

  • Author’s note: One more thing just occurred to me regarding the name Echo (it has been almost two years now since I wrote the book), her name has significance in a number of ways, but most importantly in that she never thought herself fully a person worthy of being on the planet. Having lost both her parents, and struggling desperately to find a voice, she thought of herself, metaphorically, as an echo, something left behind by others. And that is the main reason why I gave her that name.

  • Neither here nor there, but when I was growing up, there was a girl named Echo in my school. :)